Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Panic Rooms (An Optional Rule for Old School Games)

Home Sweet Home

One of my favorite rules to appear in the OSR blogosphere was Dungeons & Dawn Patrol by Jeff Rients. However, I do fear that it makes tricks which cut the party off from an obvious means of retreat to be too harsh. This sort of trick is extremely common in classic dungeons, with examples including: one-way doors, waterfalls, chutes, turnstiles, rotating hallways, teleportation traps, along with a variety of similar nefarious devices. Unless there is a relatively easy way for players to escape from that point, referees who employ such tricks will likely be dooming their players to an awful demise. Since I absolutely love these sorts of shenanigans, I've devised a workaround which I hope will still evoke the same terror I've seen the original produce (as a player in Nightwick Abbey on G+).

Panic Rooms

A temporary reprieve
On very rare occasions delvers may discover a refuge from the terrors of the Underworld in a remote corner of the dungeon. Often tucked behind hidden doors, easily fortified and with only a single entrance, these rooms act as a place for PCs to rest long enough to regather their strength. When one of these panic rooms is discovered a kindly referee will inform their players of their fortuitous discovery. Alternatively, the referee may require a party to determine on their own what constitutes a panic room, with harsh consequences for failure, namely the Dungeons & Dawn Patrol table.

At the end of a session the party may rest in a panic room for a single eight hour period. However, these places are only 'safe' in comparison to the rest of the dungeon hell that surrounds them and should be used only in the most desperate of circumstances. Avoiding wandering monsters requires that the party hide in total darkness while maintaining an absolute silence. Despite these precautions, players are still likely to periodically hear a variety of sounds outside the door, from growling and heavy breathing to loud crashes as the more stubborn predators attempt to force their way in. 

Sleep Tight

Following this harrowing experience players roll for hit points twice (as per my Living It Up rule), take the lower value, and then divide that in half. It is highly suggested that players beat a hasty retreat to the surface, if they are able to. If, for whatever reason, the party does not return to the surface they must utilize a different panic room or roll on the Dungeons & Dawn Patrol table as their original hiding spot is effectively 'blown' and will remain so for 2d4 weeks. Furthermore, spending more than one night in a dungeon is really pushing your luck. On the second night there is a 2 in 6 chance of disaster despite being in a panic room. Roll on the following Couchsurfing in the Dungeon table:

1: ASSAULT ON DUNGEON 13 The monsters know you're in there, and by god, they're getting in. Roll wandering monsters 1d4+2 times; the lot of them are on the other side of the door and are actively trying to kick it in.
2: TROLL TOLL Randomly choose one intelligent monster from a nearby level, preferably an organized group of some kind. They've entrenched themselves outside of your panic room and demand that all nonmagical treasures are turned over immediately.
3: DOOR TO THE NETHERWORLD A secret door has materialized in your panic room. Roll 1d4, this determines how many floors down it connects to. The wandering monster from that level about to break in on the players has a 4 in 6 chance of surprise.
4: ONE OF US! ONE OF US! The dungeon has claimed you as its own. Doors open for you automatically and you can see in the dark. Unfortunately, it may not be so easy to leave. As the party nears the entrance each PC must save vs paralyzation. Failure indicates that the character cannot go any further, as if blocked by a Wall of Force. Those who pass their save will find that they are free to go. Party members left behind must save versus death each night or transform into a monster. Remove Curse will allow the afflicted to escape, but will only work before they undergo their metamorphosis.

Each night spent in the dungeon after the second increases the chance of disaster, increasing the chance of mishap by one per day (3 in 6, 4 in 6, etc).

In conjunction with the rules above, here are a pair of magic items for helping the party escape a terrible fate when trapped in the dungeon.

Rocket from the Tombs: Appearing to be a metal wheel similar to those used to open submarine doors, this one-use item can be attached to any wall in the dungeon. Doing so will indicate a faint outline of a rounded secret door and, if the wheel is turned, reveals the interior of a NASA-style rocket. Immediately a loud Majel Barrett voice announces, "LAUNCH IMMINENT. TAKE-OFF IN 30...29...28..." The players will have three rounds to get inside and buckle up. At the end of the third round the rocket takes off, blasting them out of the dungeon and into the air. As they sail through the cloud the seats will automatically eject from the ship, parachutes opening to ensure a safe landing. The rocket continues to hurdle into space, eventually reaching the nearest moon (or, alternatively, being shot down by orbital lasers). No evidence of the rocket's path can be found in the dungeon, nor can the original secret door be reopened. The only evidence of the ship's flight will be scorch marks on the surface.

Shit! Get in, get in, get in...

Panic Button: This common minor magic item is a large red button labeled 'PANIC' set on a flat black base. Panic Buttons can be found throughout the dungeon, generally in piles of 2d4 set beneath a poster of two gugs leaning back-to-back, arms crossed. The poster reads:

Drax Brothers
Dungeon Extraction Specialists
Since 504 AE

Turns out that no joke is too dumb for this blog

Attached to the base is a sticker which states the following:

To Panic Room: Half
To Surface: All
Minimum 500 gp value
Arrival Estimated in 1-3 Turns
Satisfaction Guaranteed

If the button is depressed the two gugs will appear in 1d3 turns, as stated. If they find the PCs engaged in combat they will quickly move in to extract the party from the situation and whisk them away a short distance, otherwise they will demand payment up front. The party must pay one half of all nonmagical treasure to be escorted to the nearest panic room or all treasure gained to be taken to the surface. The Drax Brothers do not negotiate terms.

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